Vol. 6, No. 6    An Online Chapter of Missouri State Poetry Society     June  2007



How many poems have you read recently about work?   Or, raising the stakes a bit, how many poems have you ever read about work?  I think of "The Village Blacksmith" by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, "I Hear American Singing" by Walt Whitman, "After Apple-Picking" and "Mending Wall" and several others by Robert Frost, "The Mill" by Edwin Arlington Robinson, and a humorous poem I just discovered today by Carl Sandburg called "The Lawyers Know Too Much," which you can find by clicking here. Isn't it strange that work is so seldom mentioned in our poetry (unless we are writing about the work of writing)?  This month you have the challenge to write a poem about your work and tell us other poets who have written about your job.  If poetry is designed to bring pleasure and work is also more meaningful if pleasurable, surely there are many crosscurrents between the too.  On the other hand, if you dislike your job (one you have or one you had), can you get a poem out of it?  It is perfectly cricket in this challenge to use a poem you have already written, just as long as it has not appeared before in Thirty-Seven Cents. Heigh ho, heigh ho, get to it.   --  Tom Padgett

ADUCKA MIDSWANS RESPONSES [Click on Past Issue to see last month's picture.]

Nancy Powell: "I think the second swan is more like a poet, because it dares to observe the sidelines." 

Faye Adams: "
The duck paddles aimlessly forward, ignoring the swans. She's in her own little world, concerned only with the hunger in her belly.  The male swan ignores the duck. She is beneath him, not worthy of notice. He glides across the water effortlessly, confident his mate will follow.  The female swan is the poet. She does what's expected of her, but her eyes take in every movement made by this small, brown thing swimming alongside. Where are her white feathers? She watches the duck dive for food. Does she eat fish?  Maybe I could coax her into talking to me."


Diane Auser Stefan:


I am a published poet

though you may not have heard of me,

my poems arenít on the bookstore shelves,

Iíve done no readings on TV.


Iím a poetic ugly duckling,

barely seen when swans float near,

for they gracefully pen their epics

while I struggle to make thoughts clear.



Yet I have been blessed by people

when my words brought them to tears

as I wrote reflecting their shared joys

or perhaps named their fears.


So when you see a flock of poets

if you do not look left or right

youíll see me small there in the middle

paddling with all my might.


I doubt Iíll grow into a Show Swan

with books and books to claim my fame,

yet happy I will always be

if I can put "poet" by my name.


Past Issue Next
Poems by Members

Missouri State Poetry Society

Summer Contest

Spare Mule Online

National Federation of State Poetry Societies
Strophes Online


Peter Stanford, former editor of Catholic Herald, comments on the "churchy agnosticism" of  C. Day-Lewis, a recent poet laureate of the United Kingdom.  Find part of this article here.

David Kirby's new book, The House on Boulevard St.: New and Selected Poems, is reviewed by Carol Muske-DukesRead the review here.

James Fenton's Selected Poems is here reviewed by Stephen Metcalf.  Does this collection prove Metcalf's position that Fenton is Britain's best poet today?  Read the condensed review here.

Thomas Hardy is the subject of a very well-received biography just published by Claire Tomalin (formerly praised for her excellent book on Samuel Pepys).  Read highlights of this new work here.

John Barr, president of the foundation administering the largest gift of money ever given to support poetry, gives a progress report in this letter to subscribers of Poetry.  See how the money is being spent by clicking here.

David Kirby reviews Galway Kinnell's new collection with words of high praise and teaches us a bit about long-lined poets and short-lined poets here.

Click Back on your toolbar to return  here after finishing the column.


Click Workshop and do some of the lessons there.
If you have an idea for a new lesson, send it along. 


Read Spare Mule Online and Strophes Online available to you by clicking the underlined titles.

Our new state president, Dale Ernst, is encouraging us to enter the MSPS Summer Contest


Visit our MSPS Bulletin Board for news of events and contests in our area.


Ted Kooser, former U. S. Poet Laureate, in response to an interviewer for National Public Radio, stated that his "project" as laureate was to establish a weekly column featuring contemporary American poems supported by The Poetry Foundation, The Library of Congress, and the Department of English at the University of Nebraska.  This column appears in on-line publications (such as Thirty-Seven Cents) as well as hard-copy newspapers.  Poets are asked to contact their local newspaper editors to inform them that such a column is available free to them and to relieve the editors by explaining that all of the poems that will appear week by week are accessible, not obscure poems. 

American Life in Poetry: Column 109

One big test of the endurance of any relationship is taking on a joint improvement project. Here Sue Ellen Thompson offers an account of one such trial by fire.

Sue Ellen Thompson

My parents argued over wallpaper. Would stripes
make the room look larger? He
would measure, cut, and paste; she'd swipe
the flaws out with her brush. Once it was properly

hung, doubt would set in. Would the floral
have been a better choice? Then it would grow
until she was certain: it had to go. Divorce
terrified me as a child. I didn't know

what led to it, but I had my suspicions.
The stripes came down. Up went
the flowers. Eventually it became my definition
of marriage: bad choices, arguments

whose victors time refused to tell,
but everything done together and done well.

American Life in Poetry: Column 111

As poet Felecia Caton Garcia of New Mexico shows us in this moving poem, there are times when parents feel helpless and hopeless.  But the human heart is remarkable and, like a dry creek bed, somehow fills again, is renewed and restored.                  

Felecia Caton Garcia

Try to remember:  things go wrong in spite of it all.
I listen to our daughters singing in the crackling rows
of corn and wonder why I donít love them more.
They move like dark birds, small mouths open 

to the sky and hungry.  All afternoon I listen
to the highway and watch clouds push down over the hills.
I remember your legs, heavy with sleep, lying across mine.
I remember when the world was
transparent, trembling, all 

shattering light.  I had to grit my teeth against its brilliance.
It was nothing like this stillness that makes it difficult
to lift my eyes.  When I finally do, I see you
carrying the girls over the sharp stones of the creek bed. 

When they pull at my clothes and lean against my arms,
I donít know what to do and do nothing.

American Life in Poetry: Column 110

I've talked a lot in this column about poetry as celebration, about the way in which a poem can make an ordinary experience seem quite special. Here's the celebration of a moment on a campus somewhere, anywhere. The poet is Juliana Gray, who lives in New York. I especially like the little comic surprise with which it closes.

Juliana Gray

When clouds turn heavy, rich
and mottled as an oyster bed,

when the temperature drops so fast
that fog conjures itself inside the cars,
as if the parking lots were filled
with row upon row of lovers,

when my umbrella veils my face
and threatens to reverse itself
at every gust of wind, and rain
lashes my legs and the hem of my skirt,

but I am walking to meet a man
who'll buy me coffee and kiss my fingers--

what can be more beautiful, then,
than these boys sprinting through the storm,
laughing, shouldering the rain aside,
running to their dorms, perhaps to class,
carrying, like torches, their useless shoes?

American Life in Poetry: Column 112

Not only do we have road rage, but it seems we have road love, too. Here Elizabeth Hobbs of Maine offers us a two-car courtship. Be careful with whom you choose to try this little dance.

Elizabeth Hobbs

You follow close behind me,
for a thousand miles responsive to my movements.
I signal, you signal back. We will meet at the next exit.

You blow kisses, which I return.
You mouth "I love you," a message for my rearview mirror.

We do a slow tango as we change lanes in tandem,
gracefully, as though music were guiding us.
It is tighter than bodies locked in heat,
this caring, this ardent watching.


For an extensive article on Day-Lewis see

For a brief biography and his poem "Walking Away" visit

For an article by Day-Lewis's biographer, find

For four audio clips made for BBC visit

For "Song." his pastoral poem based on Christopher Marlowe's poem see


Pat Laster

Pack up the Ďwagon, weíre leaving this town
with our kids for two weeks at Neboís campground.

A dirt-brown Impala packed close as sardines
with two youngish children and two more preteens,

six sleeping bags, cots and a blue-striped tent
--its raising is always a stressful event.

ďLetís find the swimming pool,Ē begs older youth,
and finding the bottom too fast breaks a tooth.

Tennis preoccupies Father and sons
while daughters with Mother bounce, swing, slide and

The day Dad turns forty, mortality looms;
he gazes toward sunset through coneflower blooms.

At night when the katydids kickstart their tune,
we see near the table bright eyes of a Ďcoon.

When windy and raining, the tent starts to lean;
we move cots to center away from the screen.

Bacon and coffee, charcoal and woodsmokeó
aromas spread over each camp like a cloak.

Hiking and reading, card games, volleyball,
away from computer, TV and the mall.

Two weeks every summer till children are grown
make memoried pictures to relive alone.

Jean Even

Glory to You, O Lord.
I will praise Your name.
Though Iím not in the mood
To worship You today,
I will for Your glory.

Iíll praise You always
In Your everlasting kingdom,
Because Your love
Surpasses all understanding,
Even when Iím in a strange mood.

Glory to You, O Lord.
You will just have to excuse me.
I donít feel like worshiping You.
Iím in a strange mood,
And I need to praise Your Name.

Steve Penticuff
Better to wake up
as a cryptic letter with
insufficient postage than
as a giant cockroach,
I suppose.
                 Good to
wake up at all, some
will say; and yet perpetu-
ally now (a dream?)
I'm eyeing my own
destination and saying
excitedly to the carrier,
"Hey--look! I just need
to cross the street!
Take me there. Drop
me off, will ya?"
Heaven help me: I do
make it, but not before
the postal truck
takes me several miles
in the wrong direction
for another night
of existential anguish
in a local distribution
bin: usually "return
to sender" before it all
gets worked out. And
even then, no one quite
understands me.
to wake up as a cryptic
letter with insufficient
postage than as a giant
cockroach, I suppose.

Phyllis Moutray

I, whose mother was abed by eight,
--and up by first light--
fought sleep all my life.
I relished the night,
resisted arising come morn.
I abhorred my mother's rule
early to bed, early to rise.
This child of nine,
whose parents work midnights,
is abed by eleven;
her eyes closed in sound sleep
as soon as they hit the pillow.
She knows sleep's a gift,
a privilege not to be ignored.
She arises by seven
at the first call or ring of the alarm,
her clothes laid out the night before,
her day planned from early school arrival 
to early evening softball practice.
Her mastery of time management,
her respect for sleep,
a reflection of maturity in one so young.
Will she be the first Madame President?



Pat Durmon


Our neighbor spoke of his plan to which

he was plainly yoked:  to build a tall, wooden fenceó

Itíll separate our dogs from your puppies, heíd said.


My heart sank, and I felt doomed like a stranger

without voice.  His words clanged and clattered

inside my head which knew he had every right.


I pictured how a fence would silently tower

over the forsythias  and hide the white faces

of the Queen Anneís lace.  No longer would I catch whiffs


of the conifer pines while tending my flowers.  Only I      

how that view had renewed me like neighing horses and

puppies.  When poems just wonít come my way, I lean


in my doorway and feast on stands of green.  But today,

men came with long boards and started hammering a solid

barrier, unlike barbed wire which does not prick the eye.


I could hear the moans and groans of the saw.

Later, I stood stock-still as I looked about, toward the

And there it was: the beginnings of the great wall-fence.


And now, I am shut-in, shut-out, shut-down.

You and the pups silently sit with me this evening

on the porch while I look up, face to face, into a mackerel



where I see brokennessó and a face full of mercy and


Now, I must find a way to permanently place that face inside of me. 

Laurence W. Thomas

Donít doubt the couch potato lounging through bouts
of boxers and routs of favored teams, whose shouts
resound around the house, ďKill the coach!  Douse
the umpire with a dose of his own douche!Ē
The paunchy slouch may grouse at his wench of a spouse
who pouts when he shouts at her to fetch him red-hots,
French-fries to munch, and a pitcher of beer to quench  
his wrenching thirst.  Heís not really such a grouchy
but with two outs and the game a cinch, how did that clot
of a pitcher, just off the bench, manage to botch 
a pitch that would clinch the series?  Ouch!

Judy Young

Each blade of grass upon the sun-bleached dunes,
The rose hipsí pungent smell against the salt,
The seagullís call, the love song of the loon,
The milky clouds against the azure vault.

The wind that briskly stirs through distant pines
And sends the salt spray manes from breaking surf
Like horses running Ďlong the foamy lines
With thundering hooves upon the sandy turf.

One makes a conscious effort to absorb
And harbor all thatís sensed in memory
When suddenly each thing becomes adored,
The common takes on vivid clarity.

I must hoard all impressions I perceive;
Tomorrow is the day that I must leave.

Bev Conklin

On this early summer morning
light from the slowly rising sun
slips between the trees,
sliding softly toward the ground
on shimmering shafts of fog.

No bird sings yet.
No leaf moves.

Leaving my world of dreams,
I linger where there is neither
time nor space.
I am centering,
preferring to follow the sunlight . . .

Knowing I will land with a jolt
in the mundane morning world

Gwen Eisenmann

A clearing in a forest will do.
A peculiar peace settles there.
People come, and the absence
of people noise is awesome to them
or frightening, depending on who they are.




Harding Stedler

His alabaster feathers
stole morning's coolness
as he glided, head held high,
across the waters of Lake Willastein.
For a few brief moments, he ruled;
Canadian geese abandoned
their familiar haunt
and sought other waters.
Something very stately
about his demeanor
allowed him to own the lake.
But I owned the view
and locked it forever
in my memory
for a day I might need white.

Nancy Powell

We rush along in lifeís stream
seldom turning left or right
to see smiles or a tearís gleam,
--pushing forward set for flight. 

One of us may steal a glance,
a hasty look to the side,
quickly, do not take a chance
on faltering in your stride. 

Have you, friend or foe, observedĖ
raiment texture, colored skin,
criticism undeservedĖ
feathered birds or sinful men?

Faye Adams

Banished to the front porch
brother, sister and I lay
dispirited on quilt pallets
our knees drawn up to meet chins
spewing forth to the ground
the meager contents
of our aching stomachs.
Mom called it Summer Complaint.
She took her third arm,
the garden hoe, into the woods.
The roots, scrubbed and boiled
imparted a brew so bitter
we choked and sputtered
but drank, at her command
with faces skewed, lips puckered.
We survived         barely.

Diane Auser Stefan

I love my hill-filled Ozarks

the sunrises misty soft

I havenít always lived here

Ďcause you see, Iím from off


The music here is wondrous

heartfelt songs raise spirits aloft

and though sometimes I share my music

itís not the same, since Iím from off


I love hiking through our mountains

love seeing rocks and trees edged with moss

love the bumpy dirt road to a friendís house

where Iím welcome, though Iím from off


I hear the hammer of the blacksmith

as his fire spits, roars and coughs

I see the split-oak basket weaver,

mountain crafts enchant me Ďcause Iím from off


I love living in the Ozarks

to leave here would be my deepest loss

And I even love the home folk

who oft remind me Iím from off


Velvet Fackeldey

The nearly good eye tries to compensate
for the bad one,
filling in the blanks
with a guess at what's missing.
Accuracy is lacking
as I bang my shoulder
into a door frame
and scrape my foot
against a chair leg.
The words blur on the page,
in my mind,
and a magnifier is
my new companiion,
or hefty "large print" versions.
My ride through life
now a clumsy one,
I'm grateful for that
nearly good eye.

Tania Gray

When Laura prepared macaroni
on her Westinghouse wood-burning stove,
she used onions, home-canned tomatoes,
green pepper, sausage, salt,
bubbling buttered bread crumbs browned on top,
and Almanzo ate it.

In June Rose liked fresh strawberry pie.
She stood big fat strawberries pointing
up on the baked pie crust, poured boiling
clear thick strawberry glaze
on top, set it to chill. Rose was an
early pattern for Martha Stewart.

Iíd like to enter Lauraís kitchen,
knock-knock, itís me, whatís cooking, Laura?
and have her say, try this brioche, have
a cup of tea, and how
about your writing projects, howís the
book coming, you go girl.

Nathan Ross

A single bean feels
like a pondering
poet by windows.
Yet after a grind,
Def Poetry Jam.

A high pitched hum mixed
with drip, drip, drip, blend
to make indicate,
and smooth monologues.

An ironic smell,
brute and scholarly,
like when a body
builder conducts a
well-tuned orchestra.

A waterfall of
black nectar twirls
as its steam takes bows.

Finally, the dance.
Each bud of the tongue
twists with bitterness,
but no tear, only
caffeinated bliss.

Mark Tappmeyer

Desert fathers
like Jerome,
epicure of soul,
thought a pot of all
but figs and beans
dietetically obscene,

what's culinarily odd,
to marinade not food
but cook
in Egypt's wastes
and God.

Henrietta Romman

Come to me, Apple of My Eye.
Come closer, I have rest for you.

Abide with me.  You shall not die.
Come to me, Apple of My Eye.

Lift up your heart, look at the sky.
Await the trumpet's sound so true.

Come to me, Apple of My Eye.
Come closer, I have rest for you.

Tom Padgett

In Henry James's fiction no
one ever goes to work--oh wait,
I take that back, one novel has
a man who tools fine leather, and
a few stories show us those who paint.

But most of us live outside books,
so day by day we tear ourselves
away from what we want to do
to do what we had rather not
to earn the money that we need.

Like little dogs that chase their tails
our dollars go for that which drives
us back to work to earn some more
so we can spend our cash on books
that tell of life where no one works.